Smoke shop near U of M shut down - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Smoke shop near U of M shut down

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email | Facebook

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - The District Attorney closed a smoke shop near the University of Memphis Friday.

Police said Tokens Smoke, Spy and Gifts sold "whippets" to customers, knowing they were using the gas to get high.

Nuisance posters were placed on every storefront window of Tokens.  Some neighbors were surprised by the closing.

"I've heard rumors here and there for a year or so, but I've never seen anything myself," said neighbor Jeff Coley.

Others were not so shocked that undercover officers uncovered an alleged "whippet" warehouse just a block from the University of Memphis and right across the street from off-campus housing.

"I've seen this place up here all the time, but I never knew they were doing anything like that," said another neighbor.

Tokens is located in the heart of the university district.  The Organized Crime Unit descended upon the store Friday with a search warrant and a nuisance order.

Their month-long undercover investigation ended with the discovery of 10,800 nitrous oxide "whippet" canisters, a 12 gauge shotgun and a small amount of marijuana.  All were found inside the store Friday.

"I guess it's a little unusual to hear these things were being sold in a store," said Coley.  "They're usually sold in the street."

Police said four employees arrested Friday knew the nitrous oxide, traditionally marketed to people who make whip cream at home, was actually being used by their customers to get high.  Deitrich Hill, Arthur Wooten, Joseph Pearson and Brandi Ballard are in jail.

Action News 5 went undercover inside Tokens last month and Ballard was the clerk at the time.

"The main thing that's troubling is it's right here in the middle of the college district and there are so many young people around," said Coley.

All four suspects will appear in court Monday.

Police said last March, they were called to Tokens 14 times and arrested 12 people in and around the store.  They have seized, including marijuana, "whippets" and drug paraphernalia.  Police said the investigation began with numerous complaints from citizens and business owners.

Copyright 2011 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly